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Rubbermaid for the Holidays {transporting party food the easy way}

Monday, November 30, 2015

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Rubbermaid. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Somehow I'm on the topic of holiday food again, which is no surprise because lately FOOD is all I can think of! Whether it's family dinners, holiday parties, potlucks, or even hosting a small get together at your own place, the holiday season means lots and lots of food prep. On top of the extra holiday prep and all that, I usually bring food to church on Sundays for our weekly potluck too, so I'm always feeding a crowd. One of my biggest dilemmas is always how to transport the food and my three children, and then how to serve and present it when I arrive- it's so much to think about and I have to really plan for it. Sometimes I end up piling things on a serving tray, covering it with foil or plastic wrap, or throw it in a plastic container, cross my fingers that it stays intact, and call it good. That's just not working for me anymore. When I got the chance to try out some new products for Rubbermaid I squealed with joy- I knew this would be life changing! 


I was sent a Rubbermaid Party Platter and Rubbermaid Party Serving Kit, and just looking at it in the package got me excited. I've always needed and wanted something just like the Party Platter, but it's just something I never thought about buying (until I needed it- then I'd curse myself for not ever having one). I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Party Serving Kit can be used 10 different ways. Oh, the possibilities!


I had just the idea for trying out the Party Serving Kit first. I still needed to sign up to bring something for a breakfast themed potluck at church, and I thought muffins would be a great way to try out the cupcake tray in the Party Serving Kit. Now, this kit is seriously cool, because not only does it allow you to safely transport your standard sized cupcakes or muffins, but it also comes with a mini cupcake tray too, which also doubles as a deviled egg tray. Shut the front door- I can finally bring deviled eggs with me to a party and not have them get smushed or ruined? I told you the Party Serving Kit would be a life changer! You can also take out the trays and just use the flat base with the domed lid for a smudge-free frosting on a two-tiered 13x9 inch cake, round cakes and pies, and even cookies. The base has a raised lip to contain loose items, and there are two latches that snap the lid into the base for a tight and secure seal. The handle even locks to prevent your items from swaying and getting ruined- Rubbermaid really has thought of everything!

Anywho- back to my muffins. I went super fancy and bought a couple boxes of cinnamon streusel muffin mix to bake up and bring on Sunday. I really wanted to bring cupcakes, but I had to stick with the theme of the potluck, so cupcakes were out and muffins were in. Before getting the Party Serving Kit, I didn't have an easy way to bring cupcakes with me anywhere. How in the heck do you do that without ruining the frosting? The Party Serving Kit worked perfectly for my streusel topped muffins, and I know they would work just as well for perfectly frosted cupcakes. 


 They stayed perfectly intact and they didn't lose even a crumb! 

Of course everyone ooh'ed and ahh'ed over my beautiful Rubbermaid Party Serving Kit, and some of the ladies had to know where to get it. You can find that information here!

Next up, I had to try out the Party Platter. I love the simple design: a two-in-one base to keep food separated, a secure lid, and a smaller, separate leak-proof container inside for dips that nests snugly into the base. To say that I'm in love with the Party Platter is an understatement. I will use this thing all the time! First up, a simple veggie tray with some jalapeno ranch dip for some family we had coming over. I love that this platter is great for transporting the food as well as just for using at home. I washed and prepped the veggies and mixed up the dip, put the lid on, and stored it all in the fridge before my guests arrived, that way I could sit back, visit, and pull out a nice little veggie tray to go with the rest of our snacks when everyone started to get hungry. It kept everything nice and fresh, and the leftovers could just go right back in the fridge. I actually didn't have any veggies left over, so I just popped container of  ranch out and put the platter right into the dishwasher. I can't wait to use this more for fruit, meats & cheeses, pickles and olives, chips and dips, and more. I know this one will be going with me on a lot of Sundays, too! 



Both the Rubbermaid Party Platter and the Party Serving Kit can be found online and in stores, are 100% BPA free, and are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe. They really are the perfect solution for on the go snacks, hors d’ oeuvres, appetizers, and treats. I know I'm going to be giving away a couple as gifts to my envious friends and family and I can't wait to bring more delicious treats to some upcoming holiday parties! 

You better believe I'm bringing the deviled eggs next time!

What's your favorite thing to bring to a holiday party?
Would you use these Rubbermaid dishes?

Holiday baking traditions {+ a giveaway from Betty Crocker}

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The holidays are probably my favorite time of year, and for so many different reasons. It's not even about getting presents anymore like it was when I was a kid- it's about doing things for the people I love, and it's about family traditions that get you in the holiday spirit. Sure, a really sweet gift is always appreciated too, but as an adult I've found that it really and truly is better to give than to receive.

One way that I love to give to others is through food, and this time of year, specifically, baking. Probably because as a kid, my mom was always baking up tons of yummy baked goods, cookies, fudges, and treats of all kinds around Christmas time to give to friends and family. I remember she would have these days where all she did was bake, bake, bake...all day! She'd put together these huge gift baskets filled with delicious sweets and give them all away to everyone we knew. People loved it, too! We didn't always have a lot of money, but these home-baked gift baskets were a great way to show the people we loved that we cared, and that goes a lot further than a fancy, more expensive store bought gift. Plus, it was fun helping my mom in the kitchen baking up the treats. I have so many fond memories of learning to bake with her, and as a mom myself, I love baking with my daughter, Lily,  around the holidays now too. She's 7 and loves to help out in the kitchen now, so when I asked her if she wanted to bake some cookies with me to give to some of our friends and spread some holiday cheer, she jumped at the idea.


I decided that I wanted to keep the cookie baking extravaganza somewhat simple (if there is such a thing), since baking with kids can be somewhat messy. I found a coupon for some Betty Crocker cookie mixes, so we grabbed a few of those and some Betty Crocker icing pouches for the sugar cookies. Lily loves decorating cookies the most. I love how Betty makes even cut out sugar cookie pretty easy- no mixer required. We just added some melted butter, an egg, and a few tablespoons of flour to the sugar cookie mix, rolled it out, and it made the perfect, quick cookie dough


Lily thought it was "really cool" how we sprinkled flour on the counter top on purpose. I would usually never let her make a mess like that, haha. Neurotic mother alert. 


The sugar cookies only took about 7 minutes to cook, and then Lily had to very patiently wait until the cookies were completely cooled before she could decorate them. This was excruciating. I can not stress this part enough! I am proud that she survived the wait, because for a while there I thought she wasn't going to make it (wink, wink).

When it was finally time to decorate the cookies Lily went straight to work.

Even big brother, who thought he was just too cool to bake cookies with his mom and little sister, broke away from his video game induced zombie-like state to come decorate a gingerbread man and get his picture taken.

Cookie decorating tip: give the kids an extra cookie sheet to decorate on- it works great for catching sprinkles!


Who can resist decorating a gingerbread man?

My little baking queen made me a pretty blue star cookie with a "M' on it for mommy. Isn't she the sweetest? She also made a gingerbread man that she told me was her great grandpa, which is a little weird, I thought. But it made her happy, and she did a great job, so I told her she did a great job, and then she proceeded to eat the great grandpa cookie. 


As much as I begged and pleaded  for there to be no finger-licking and frosting tasting, fingers were licked and icing tips were contaminated by sticky little mouths. I figured these cookies, while beautifully and painstakingly decorated, should probably not be shared with our friends and loved ones after all (unless they don't mind spitty germs). So while Lily finished icing the last of the cookies, I whipped up a quick batch of Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookies. I love how quick and easy these cookies are to make- no measuring! Just a stick or two of butter and an egg mixed with the chocolate chip cookie mix resulted in these deliciously soft, perfectly light, and crisp cookies. 


When the chocolate chip cookies were completely cooled, I gathered up some stuff to put together my little gift baskets (before the cookies disappeared). Since we actually baked our cookies the morning of Thanksgiving, we were a little pressed for time, so I was aiming for something cute but easy (that's kind of a theme around here, in case you haven't noticed). I found these cute little boxes and treat bags in the dollar section at Target and I'd been holding on to them for the perfect occasion, plus Betty Crocker has the cutest little printables for you to print and use at home and use to help #SpreadCheer to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. 


I stuck a few cookies in each of the little bags, sealed them up, and placed them in the baskets. I chose a cute red Betty Crocker gift tag to cut out and stuck it in the basket too, and our #SpreadCheer basket was good to go! All that was left was to deliver it to someone.

I decided to bring some to my friend Anna. I've mentioned her on the blog many times- we became friends through beauty school about 9 years ago and our daughters are the same age, plus she does an amazing job on my hair! Anyway, we're pretty close, and we see each other on a fairly regular basis, except it's been a while because we both were dealing with the recent mass power outage after that stupid wind storm. She just recently got to go back home and have her power restored, so I figured she was probably in need of some extra holiday cheer. She loves when I bring her treats!



To help spread cheer this holiday season, I'm challenging YOU to find a way to spread cheer to the people in your life. You saw how easy it was to whip up a quick batch of Betty Crocker cookies and put together a fun and tasty little gift basket- who would you give one to? Plus, baking together is just plain fun, and it's a great holiday tradition that I look forward to every year with my daughter. I know she is going to look back on these memories quite fondly one day, and hopefully she will continue the tradition with her children. I also hope she continues to spread cheer to everyone she knows! 

To facilitate and #SpreadCheer even further, I'm including a giveaway for a quick $20 cash to one lucky person! Now, keep in mind that you can do whatever you'd like with this $20, but I encourage you to use it to help spread cheer too.

Giveaway #1

Win $20 in Paypal! This giveaway will end on 12/30/2015. Here’s what you need to do:
1.Visit the Betty Crocker #SpreadCheer page to download printables and get a coupon!
2.Create your own #SpreadCheer basket and post a photo on your favorite social media. Tag two (2) of your friends in your post to challenge them to #SpreadCheer! Make sure to use the hashtag #SpreadCheer in your post.
3.In the comments below, link your social media post and tell me who you chose to #SpreadCheer.
4.A winner will be drawn from just those comments who do this

Giveaway #2:

When you're spreading the cheer this holiday season, don't forget to use the hashtag #SpreadCheer on social media. I know a lot of people don't get the need for hashtags- but if you click on one (on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter) you'll see all of the other people out there using the same hashtag, and maybe you'll be inspired to spread a little cheer around your area :) Don't forget to grab a Betty Crocker coupon first! 


Gelish MINI Red Matters holiday 2015 collection {review + giveaway}

Friday, November 27, 2015

'Tis the season...for gorgeous red nails!

The lovely people at Gelish MINI sent me their latest gel polish collection, and I'm over here swooning over these 6 luscious hues. Red Matters is their 2015 holiday collection, and it contains 4 existing Gelish MINI colors and 2 new, exclusive shades. These fun, festive, red-hot soak off gel polish colors are sure to keep you dressed to the nines for all of your holiday occasions.


The Red Matters collection all applied quite nicely to the nail and provided even coverage with no issues. All pictures in this post show two coats of color. Let's check out these gorgeous shades!

Good Gossip is a fun, bright, glittery red with flecks of gold glitter.


Man of the Moment (new color) is a rosy red creme with no shimmer.


Queen of Hearts is a deep, rich red with a frosty finish.


Hot Rod Red is a classic bright red cream with no shimmer. 


I'm So Hot (new color) is a deep burgundy with a lush shimmer. 


Life Of The Party is a Trends glitter topper with a sheer red base and multi-sized chunks of red glitter. This topper adds a fun pop of glitter over any existing Gelish MINI color, or could be worn alone. 


I love this collection so much! It's so bright, cheery, and, well...red! The Gelish MINI Red Matters holiday 2015 collection can be found online and in stores now at Sally Beauty Supply for a limited time and retail for $12.99 each (don't forget to sign up for their beauty card & save $$ on every purchase though! It's so worth the extra $5 and the card is good for 1 year). You can also find them online on Amazon

But because I'm feeling the holiday spirit right now, one lucky Lulu & Sweet Pea reader will win 3 bottles of polish from the Gelish MINI Red Matters collection! Simply enter on the Rafflecopter widget below. Please refer to the terms and conditions.


Please refer to the terms and conditions.
Open to US residents only.
Must be 18 to enter.
No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.
Only the first entry is mandatory.
Never tried gel nails? I've got a ton of tutorials for you! My DIY Gel Nails post is a great place to start. I walk you through the entire process, step by step, and I include a lot of pictures and I'm a stickler for detail. It's a long one...but I promise: read the tutorial from start to finish and you'll end up with an amazing gel manicure. Once you've got that down you can move on to some of my other tutorials and you'll soon be a pro.

This post contains affiliate links. I was given these products free of charge from Gelish MINI for reviewing purposes. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Simply perfect pasta salad {+ a Mezzetta holiday giveaway!}

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I can't believe the holiday season is already upon us!

When I think of the holidays, I think of the three F's: family, friends, and food. In my family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into, and even in my close circle of friends, every get-together is really just an excuse to make yummy food. I mean, really, there's nothing better than spending time around the holidays with family and friends whilst stuffing your face, am I right?

 What's a holiday without the finger foods, snacks, and olive trays?


Growing up, I spent hours in the kitchen watching my mom cook for us, especially this time of year. She was always in the kitchen when it came to holidays, parties, barbecues, and potlucks, and she had her signature dishes for every occasion. Everyone could count on my mom to bring salads, famous casseroles, and delicious desserts, and I picked up a few of these special recipes from her while on my way to adulthood. Mom's pasta salad is one of my all time favorite crowd-pleasers because it's easy and everyone loves it. Plus, you can make it simple and super kid-friendly, or you can go all out and jazz it up for a more refined palette. I tend to land somewhere in the middle most times I make it, and my kids love it. I'll be making this deliciousness this holiday season:


Ingredients:

1 package of tri-colored rotini pasta
1 small carton of grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup Mezzetta olives (any variety- I'm using the Blue Cheese Stuffed ones)
1 14oz can artichoke hearts- cut into small chunks
1 small pkg salami or pepperoni
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Italian dressing, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


Instructions:

Cook pasta according to packaged instructions- I prefer my pasta al dente for this. While it's boiling, cut the tomatoes and Mezzetta olives in half. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop them up into bite size chunks. Quarter the salami or pepperoni, and shred your cheese. Set aside chopped ingredients.




When the pasta is done, drain it, and rinse it well under very cold water. Make sure the pasta is completely cold! Drain well, and dump into a large bowl. Add the chopped ingredients and some dressing, and stir it gently. Taste the salad to see if you need more dressing- I tend to use a lot (like 1/2 a bottle) so use your own judgement.


Add the cheese (I didn't use any this time, since I was using the blue cheese stuffed olives) and salt and pepper to taste, tossing lightly again. Chill in the fridge or serve immediately!


As I mentioned above, you can get creative with this recipe and change it up to your liking. Sometimes I use Mezzetta's black olives and turkey pepperoni in it if I'm going to a barbecue, while other times I'll use higher quality salami and tangy kalamata olives with feta cheese in it. Either way, I've never come home with leftovers!



Mezzetta's Holiday Memory Sweepstakes 


Make sure to enter the Mezzetta Holiday Memory Sweepstakes right now on their website for a chance to win this cool grand prize- an instant print digital camera to capture your own holiday memories! Or be 1 of 10 runners up to win an Ultimate Olive Lover's gift basket!

• Grand Prize (1) - Instant Print Digital Camera plus a Ultimate Olive Lover’s Gift Basket including Mezzetta Olives, Olive Spoon, Cutting Board, Olive Bowl, Cocktail Napkins and Recipe Card.

• Runner Up Prizes (10) - Ultimate Olive Lover’s Gift Basket including Mezzetta Olives, Olive Spoon, Cutting Board, Olive Bowl, Cocktail Napkins and Recipe Card. 


Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Mezzetta has tons here. Check them out for some inspiration! Also, grab a coupon here for Mezzetta olives this holiday season.

What's your favorite holiday dish?


Easy tips for helping a sick friend or loved one

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's officially that time of year. You know, when it seems like everyone you know has a cold or a flu just about every other week. My household is a revolving door for germs and illnesses right now, and just as one of us gets over it, another bug seems to take over and get us all sick again. The mom in me wants to take care of everyone. When I hear someone is sick or not feeling well, my first instinct is to ask what I can do to help or if there's anything they need, even though most people will refuse the offer and suffer in silence.

But what if we didn't let the tough it out on their own? There's always something you can do to help a sick friend or relative. Even if it's just a simple, small gesture, like bringing them a box of Kleenex or some cough drops. Just that one little gesture could brighten someones day this holiday season, especially if they are feeling crummy.

Here's a few easy ways to help a sick loved one:

Bring them a care package. Does your friend have the sniffles? Make sure they are well stocked on Kleenex, medicine, cough drops, vitamins, juice, etc. Kleenex are a must in this household! While soft and strong, the Kleenex Lotion facial tissues with aloe vera and vitamin E are the perfect way to soothe a sore, stuffy, runny nose. The 3-ply construction is thick enough to handle the toughest colds and are super absorbent.


Bring them some soup. Whether it's homemade or from a can, nothing beats a hot bowl of soup when you're feeling under the weather. Crackers and hot tea with honey (great for sore throats) pair perfectly with it too.
Help out around the house. Nothing is worse than being sick and having your house look like a tornado hit it at the same time. While your friend or relative is down for the count, offer to clean up the kitchen- wash some dishes, wipe off counter tops, sweep/vacuum the floor, and throw in a load of laundry while you're at it. 
Help care for their children. If your friend/relative is a parent, ask them if you can help out with the kids, and don't let them say no. Offer to babysit, or take the kids out for a few hours so mom/dad can get some uninterrupted rest. I know my children tend to get insanely restless and bored when I'm sick on the couch, and I'm always silently praying that someone would offer to take them away, even just for a few hours! 
Bring them some entertainment. Let's face it- being sick can be downright miserable, and also very boring. Swing by a Redbox and pick out a funny movie for them, or bring over your favorite book you think they might enjoy, or even a few fun magazines. 
Check in on them. Make sure your friend knows you care. Call or text them (without disturbing them or being annoying) and make sure they know you are there to help! If they don't want to be bothered, even a quick text saying "Hope you're feeling better. I left you a little care package wtih some Kleenex on your porch!" is a great way to lend a hand without being too invasive or bothersome. 

See? Easy-peasy. These aren't huge gestures, but rather simple acts of kindness you can do to help out a sick loved one. Don't just offer- make sure you do them. I know plenty of times where I've been in a situation where I craved someones help but was too afraid to take them up on their offer of assistance. Don't let the moment pass you by when you get the chance to lend a hand!


Make sure you're prepared this cold and flu season with Kleenex's exclusive holiday collection at Sam's Club. The Kleenex Winter Pack includes 3 of their festive winter design Perfect Fit canisters and 8 boxes of Kleenex Lotion facial tissues. I love the cute little designs on the Perfect Fit canisters- I've already got one sitting right next to my computer work station, just in case! Plus, they are so festive. Sam's Club is the perfect place to stock up on everything your house needs. Not a member? Just go here to find out how to become a Sam's Club member.


Here's your chance- how will you show gestures of care this holiday season? 


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